There’s nothing like a good pull oneself up by the bootstraps story. When a student who lacked every advantage in life earns admission to an Ivy League school and comes to realize he just might be able to change his life’s narrative, there is joy. And it’s not just his own joy — it’s joy shared by his teachers and school administrators, by his community, by his family. Over the years, we’ve seen many videos of T.M. Landry College Preparatory students — who are typically underpriviledged, underrepresented minorities — learn of their acceptances to some of our nation’s most elite universities. We too have enjoyed watching these videos, in spite of the fact that we believe these moments should be private. One we watched last year of a T.M. Landry College Prep student who earned admission to Harvard was viewed over eight million times. It gave us chills. But were so many of these inspiring stories coming from the same high school too good to be true?
Shame on T.M. Landry College Preparatory School
A startling “New York Times” exposé out today by Erica L. Green and Katie Benner entitled “Louisiana School Made Headlines for Sending Black Kids to Elite Colleges. Here’s the Reality.” greatly disheartens us as it clouds these narratives we’ve so loved seeing unfold. As Green and Benner report, “T.M. Landry has become a viral Cinderella story, a small school run by Michael Landry, a teacher and former salesman, and his wife, Ms. Landry, a nurse, whose predominantly black, working-class students have escaped the rural South for the nation’s most elite colleges…Landry success stories have been splashed in the past two years on the ‘Today’ show, ‘Ellen’ and the ‘CBS Morning News.’ Education professionals extol T.M. Landry and its 100 or so kindergarten-through-12th-grade students as an example for other Louisiana schools. Wealthy supporters have pushed the Landrys, who have little educational training, to expand to other cities. Small donors, heartened by the web videos, send in a steady stream of cash.”
They continue, “In reality, the school falsified transcripts, made up student accomplishments and mined the worst stereotypes of black America to manufacture up-from-hardship tales that it sold to Ivy League schools hungry for diversity. The Landrys also fostered a culture of fear with physical and emotional abuse, students and teachers said. Students were forced to kneel on rice, rocks and hot pavement, and were choked, yelled at and berated. The Landrys’ deception has tainted nearly everyone the school has touched, including students, parents and college admissions officers convinced of a myth.”
Our Previous Criticism of T.M. Landry College Prep
As our loyal readers may remember, we’ve previously criticized T.M. Landry College Preparatory School for making a spectacle of their students’ admissions decisions. It’s been a tradition at T.M. Landry for students to learn of their admissions decisions in front of, well, the world. These filmed moments, while remarkable to watch, should be private moments. And what happens when a student receives a decision that isn’t an acceptance? The whole world needs to watch them in one of their most disheartening times? We always thought it was utterly self-serving for the school and, as it now turns out, based on the reporting of “The New York Times,” it was all allegedly part of one big fraud. Our hearts go out to all of these students, past and present, and their families.
We’ll report more developments on this scandal in the weeks to come.